There is a Danish video making the rounds that shows a roomful of people standing in separate squares painted on the floor. Those within each square share something in common. They may be retirees or members of a street gang, teens from the city or people from the country, those in the upper income regions and those living on the street. But they are all grouped and they are all divided – by dress, by posture, by religion, by nation of birth. That is, until the questions start being asked – who of you are step-parents, who of you were the class clown, who of you love to dance? And new squares start to form as the groups begin to morph and change and people begin to learn more about what they have in common.
There’s another video out there that shows AGNES, a suit designed as a teaching tool for people to wear so that they can experience what it would feel like to live life as a person in their mid-70s. AGNES (which stands for Age Gain Now Empathy System) is calibrated to reproduce the visual, motor, flexibility, dexterity and strengths of a senior. CVS pharmacies have used the lessons learned from donning AGNES to make their stores easier for the elderly to navigate. Medical students have found AGNES invaluable in helping them more fully understand what their patients experience.
AGNES is truly a creation of the Experience Economy. AGNES is staged to take us out of our normal existence so that we may be taught something new and be transformed by what we learn about others and ourselves.
Our most powerful tool for being of value to others is not in what we tell them or sell them. It is in understanding how they feel. At its core, our jobs are about empathy for those we work with, in understanding their needs, their feelings, and the things that matter to them. If it takes wearing a suit to do that, then so be it.
But in the absence of AGNES or a Danish exercise, a serious starting point is by listening. Listen for the tone behind the words. Listen for the emotion and listen with emotion. Apply what is learned to how you craft your offerings. Because in this ramped up, distracted and distracting world that we all must share, we are all together.